Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Our Lady of a Happy Birth - October 11

In the Basilica of Sant'Agostino in Rome there stands near the entrance a towering statue of the mother of Jesus. This representation of Mary was long ago dubbed the Madonna of Childbirth. She is also sometimes referred to as Our Lady of Happy Delivery or Our Lady of Childbirth. It is flanked all around with handwritten notes, birth announcements, photographs of newborn babes, pink and blue ribbons, flowers, and candles. They are taped to the wall, tucked into crevices, laid at the base, and at her feet sits a large book filled with prayers requested along with lines and lines of gratitude for prayers answered. Other shrines exist, too. There is one in Paris, France dedicated to Our Lady of Good Delivery. There is also Our Lady of the Milk and Happy Delivery in Saint Augustine, Florida. Traditionally, these roles of Mary were celebrated on October 11, the feast of the Divine Maternity of Mary. For centuries, couples have come to Mary under these or similar titles not only asking for the gift of a child but also asking for a healthy and happy birth. It is a stunning witness to the Church’s concern for birth.

In our marriages, we are asked to be open to life, to value life, to welcome children into our families with generosity. That openness to life by necessity opens us up to the possibility of birth - real physical, messy, bloody, beautiful birth. We can and should ask that those births be blessed by Him and recognize the potential for grace during them. The births of our babies are intimately connected to our marriages and womanhood. Whatever kind of birth we have, they involve all of us – body, mind, heart, and soul. Birth is not something we need just grit our teeth through and survive. We can pray that they be healthy, of course, but we’re also invited to pray that they be happy, joyful, a time where our experience of God and our feminine genius is deepened. 

There’s no “need” for this, of course. Just like there’s no need for most of the graces God longs to pour down upon us and invites us to ask for. Our God is a God of generosity and abundance and that doesn’t stop at the first contraction. I believe that God wants to be intimately involved in the births of our children. He was so at their conception and His love and concern carry us through pregnancy and through the intense and profound moments of birth. That doesn’t mean they are going to look a certain way or that they won’t be difficult, perhaps incredibly so. But these are moments that go beyond our natural understanding into something much deeper – a deeper experience of His passion, His love, His joy, His call for us as women to be life-bearers.

As we enter into our own births or pray for those we know who are pregnant, let’s not be afraid to ask that the birth be not only healthy but beautiful. Let’s recognize that the God who concerns Himself with the number of hairs on our heads and who knows when we sit and when we stand most certainly also wants to be a part of something so intimate and important to us as birth. Let's remember that He was the intentional designer behind it all and that He is not embarrassed or scandalized by its raw physicality. The God who designed that sex be sacramental is also the one who designed for it to culminate in birth, very real birth. Let’s ask Our Lady of Childbirth to intercede for us as we and the sisters around us do the incredible work of bringing new life into the world. Let’s remember that birth matters, not only to us, but to Him, too.

Our Lady of a Happy Birth, pray for us.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Guiding Parents Through Miscarriage (We Need to Do Better.)

I've heard the story dozens of times now.

The baby's heart is no longer beating...

I'm spotting and I don't know what to do... 

The numbers don't look good and they think the baby isn't going to make it... 

I didn't even know I could name the baby let alone have a funeral... 

I had no idea what to do...

They wouldn't let me take the body...

Husband and wife in marriage are asked to be open to life. That openness to life isn't just a yes to diapers, sleepless nights, teething toddlers, noisy houses, hormonal teenagers, and a life that's no longer our own. When we open ourselves to life, we also open ourselves to loss, to pain, to grief, to heartache, even to death. It's an incredibly brave act to choose to be vulnerable, to choose to take that risk, to open our hearts knowing that it might mean they will break. Too many of us know how real that risk is.

And yet, despite the fact that an estimated 10-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage (true miscarriage stats are pretty impossible to obtain), many of us have had zero guidance before or during as to what to do when it happens. Most couples that go through it have no idea what their options are and are left to figure it out on their own and do it in the midst of shock, grief, and a difficult physical process they've never gone through before. We're told that life begins at conception, that every life has dignity, that this baby had a very real soul and yet there is a huge vacuum of information and help when it comes to miscarriage. If we are a Church that values the life of every single unborn life, we have to do better. We have to provide couples with real, practical guidance through miscarriage and stillbirth. We have to give couples information on what might happen, what recourse they have, what spiritual support they might need and what is available to them and their baby. There are some beautiful ministries out there but they are spotty and still relatively unknown to the vast majority of parishes and pastors.

I personally believe that should start in marriage preparation. It needs to be a topic addressed before a couple is going through it. Not only that but it should be taught to every seminarian and every employee of the Church that might answer the phone call from a grieving parent. In my experience, most priests have no idea how to help or even what they have the responsibility to offer. Most priests don't realize how common it is and that there are dozens of couples in their pews that have lost a child without any help or guidance from the Church during the death. Most priest don't even know that they can and should offer a funeral Mass for the unborn child or, at the very least, a memorial Mass for him or her. Most priests don't offer couples the Blessing for Parents After a Miscarriage. Some don't even know how to appropriately answer questions regarding baptism or the possibility of heaven for the unborn child.

I don't mean to place this all at the feet of priests, of course. They quite simply don't know. And how could they if they've never been taught about it or if couples aren't sharing with them when it does happen? And I certainly don't claim to have all the answers. But I do know that parents need to learn about it before it happens and I know that seminaries and parishes need to do a better job about fostering awareness for the appropriate Christian response to miscarriage and stillbirth. Every obstetrician and midwife, Catholic or not, should be well aware that Catholics (and all Christians) treat miscarriage differently and know what options to offer. Catholic hospitals need to be training every single employee who may come in contact with miscarriage in how to lovingly and appropriately respond to it (or the threat of it), from the E.R. receptionist to the med student to the pathology technicians. They should facilitate contact between the parents and a Catholic priest or parish that can help them. They should ensure that any remains in their care receive the most dignified treatment and burial possible and that parents are given the option to easily claim the remains if desired. (Don't even get me started on the fact that in our state a woman can have an abortion for any reason up to 26 weeks - and then for notoriously fuzzy "health" reasons at ANY time right up until birth - and YET a mother suffering a miscarriage in the hospital at ANY gestational age cannot have the remains without intervention from a licensed funeral director because they're...wait for it...human remains.) 

A mother in shock and grief who calls the parish should receive immediate compassion and real, concrete help regarding funeral plans, how to save and treat any remains of the baby, if possible, and information regarding burial. Even better, she should receive meals and support from any bereavement ministry present in the parish. This should happen no matter what the parent's status is within the parish. A mother or father should realize that they even can make that call and that the Church of course cares deeply about the life of their little one. The death of the unborn needs to be treated with the same amount of concern with which we treat any other death in the family. In a culture where the unborn are deemed disposable, their bodies as medical waste, the Church should be shouting from the steeples the opposite, that each of the lives of these little ones matter and the loss of any of them is a tragedy to which we will respond.

Like I said, I don't have all the answers and I hesitate to post this, unsure if it comes off as to blame-y. But there's a very real problem when parents are met with blank responses to phone calls and most parents and priests alike have little to no idea how to practically and spiritually respond to miscarriage. It's because of this I've written so much about pregnancy loss and why I've included an entire chapter in a book about birth to miscarriage and loss from a practical and spiritual perspective. It's important and it's needed. I hope and pray that the more awareness we grow for this cross and the ways that we can respond as a Church, the better we will be at recognizing the dignity of every person and can better work toward an authentic culture of life.

Some other posts that might be helpful:

Friday, September 1, 2017

7 quick takes for the first of september

Ah, she's alive! I am. And it's September?! What? I shall squelch all of my perfectionist tendencies and need to be completely blog-consistent and just jump back in with some quick takes...

I had the beautiful opportunity to attend my first ever blogging conference down in Virginia. Ana Hahn graciously hosted us and it was such a wonderful weekend. From the trip down with as many bathroom stops and as much adult conversation as we wanted to the chance to finally meet in person so many of the women I've now known online for years, it was really life-giving. Each one of them was exactly how I pictured them in real life and it was so neat to solidify and grow those friendships in the flesh as well as meet some new lovely and beautiful women. The talks were challenging and encouraging and gave me so much to think and pray on as to the direction and purpose of my writing. I'm so grateful my husband pushed me to go!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Saint Ignatius May Have Eaten Churros

Because I'm crazy? impulsive? inspired? (we should go with that last one) I decided the other morning after Mass on the feast of Saint Ignatius that we needed something Spanish for dessert. He was a Spanish soldier who had a huge conversion to the Catholic Faith while recovering from a battle injury, and later went on to form the Society of Jesus, i.e. the renowned Jesuit order, in part to help fight heresy spreading in the Church. He's one of the great and most influential saints of Church history. I was partly educated at a Jesuit college where I intellectually reverted to the Church helped along by a Jesuit priest. Despite that I ended up leaving because as a whole it wasn't being very faithful to the Church, I still have a soft spot for their founder and purpose. I am pretty ignorant in Spanish food and culture (though I did take 6 years of the language in school and do remember some if that gives me any credibility?! #no) so I needed to look up the common desserts of Spain.  I settled on homemade churros. Simple ingredients all on hand, no turning on the oven in an 82 degree/no air conditioning kitchen, and basically FRIED DOUGH so...yes. Do I have any idea if Saint Ignatius ate churros? Not a bit. But I'm pretty sure he would have given the chance. I'm not sure historical accuracy is relevant here. It's the intention, right? We're celebrating a great saint, his homeland, and my kids are learning that feast days = delicious.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Breastfeeding Support that Made a Difference

It's World Breastfeeding Week so in recognition of that, I'm sharing at Elizabeth Ministry about my experience with breastfeeding support. 

...It’s been over a decade of nursing that I’ve now put in. Five babies to raise with a few months of breaks here and there means I’ve spent the better part of the last thirteen years with a breastfeeding child. I am so grateful for the ability to have successfully nursed all of them and the support that’s made it so much more possible to do...

Thursday, July 27, 2017

N.F.P. is Good for Men, Too.

It's Natural Family Planning week! Cue the parades and trumpets! (Can we insert a slight pause for amusing and/or hysterical images of what would constitute NFP related parade floats? *snicker* Okay, unpause.)

A lot is said about how good fertility awareness and NFP methods are for women. And it's true. Fertility awareness respects our dignity and intelligence. It treats us as whole women and honors the natural design of our bodies. It helps us diagnose and treat any underlying medical conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, infertility, hormone imbalances, and more. It can literally help prevent a miscarriage and save a baby's life. It can help us have more informed and healthier births. The effectiveness rates are virtually on par with any chemical and unlike those, it can actually helps us get pregnant. It doesn't make the womb a hostile environment for pregnancy so that any baby that does get conceived has a chance of being passively aborted. It doesn't come with that pesky first class carcinogen tag, the risk of stroke, blood clots, depression, weight gain, infertility, death, or that annoying chance of ripping a hole in your uterus. 

But NFP is profoundly good for men, too.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Cake for Saint Benedict's Day

Since having our own Benedict, I've been trying to think up some ideas for celebrating the great saint's feast day in our home with some special food. Eggs Benedict was obvious, of course, but I'm 99% certain my kids wouldn't actually enjoy that or consider it a treat! I ended up making a simple cookie cake and decorating it a la the Saint Benedict medal using some leftover frosting sitting handily in the fridge. (Frosting lasts forever, you guys. I think it was from Ben's birthday like two months ago?) I used this recipe. (Note to self: next time cook for just 2 minutes less.) It wasn't my best piping job by far but the feast day boy loved it. We spent some time before eating it going over the symbolism that covers both front and back of the actual medal. It's so powerful! I used to have a St. Benedict crucifix that I wore every day around my neck but it broke several years ago and I replaced it with the JPII papal crucifix. I think I might need to add a simple Saint Benedict medal to the chain, though. One of these days I'll have to get to reading The Rule of Saint Benedict as well!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Smithy-Style Birthday for a Junior Blacksmith

Our oldest turned thirteen this past week! The kid kind of amazes me. His latest obsession is blacksmithing. After learning how to build a backyard mini forge, he got all the materials and we let him set it up on our property. He'd love to apprentice somewhere and learn traditional smithing so we'll have to see if the opportunity opens up somewhere for him. He spends hours a day making his own charcoal in the way back yard to use in the forge. So far, his wares are mostly arrowheads but he also made me a rustic little hook for the house! I love it. He so proudly presented it to me one day in the kitchen and promised me some more. He was in his glory when we had people over for his birthday and he could share this little passion with them. After explaining how he does it all (to a very patient audience), he then demonstrated how he forges an arrowhead. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Day Before Teenager

The doctor put you in my arms and I became a different person. At least, that’s how it felt. With your wet warm squirmy body on my chest, the deepest part of me became forever changed. I had really no idea what I was doing and yet I knew to the depths of my soul that I was the one to do it. You made me a mother and gave me a mission beyond anything I had before and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Tomorrow you’re a teenager. That’s supposed to be something dramatic. I’m told I’m supposed to fear it, to dread who you will become. But…I don’t. Not even a little bit. Maybe I'll regret saying that, I don’t know. But I know you’ll still be you and that isn’t going to suddenly change. There are those profound moments in our lives that do change us but rarely is it a birthday. You will still be you and I will still be your mom. Right now I’m just so excited to see and know the boy you are and the man you are becoming. Honestly? I just feel so completely privileged to watch God work in you because He is making someone amazing.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Seven Quick Takes :: June 2017

How about I break the blogging lull with some slightly mediocre quick takes?

1. First of all, THANK YOU! Thank you, thank you, thank you. The response to my book news was overwhelming and I'm so grateful for your support. My editor is working on the first read through and we will begin the editing process soon. I know the analogy is probably tired but it really is so true that writing a book is SO much like having a baby, probably a million times more so when the book is actually about having a baby! Finishing the manuscript was like that moment when the baby is born and you are DONE and you feel like you have nothing left inside of you...except you're not really done yet. You still have more work to do to finish the birth. I'm in the rest now of having gotten the huge part out of the way but knowing that there's still more to be done, even if it feels like I have nothing left in me to give. I'll do it anyway because that's what has to be done. And really, I do want to do it because I truly want this to be the absolute best it can be. So a few more pushes are in store ;)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

That Thing I Was Never Going to Do (A crazy, exciting, slightly terrifying announcement!)

How’s that for a teaser?

First, happy feast of the Visitation! It's one of my favorite little feast days of the year and it's the perfectly appropriate day for the news that I’ve been waiting and waiting to share here. (And no, I’m not pregnant though it does kind of feel extremely similar sometimes!)

For about a year now I’ve been working on something – something I never ever thought I’d do or was even capable of doing. It’s a project that I’ve thought for years someone needed to do but it sure as heck wasn’t going to be me. I didn't think I was qualified and I definitely didn’t have the time. And then someone else put it realistically in front of me and asked me to do it. After a lot of discernment and “well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to just try to see if it’s possible,” you guys, all through Him, I did it.

I wrote a book. 

And someone wants to PUBLISH it.

Slowly and steadily every Saturday morning, I’ve slipped away from the house for a few hours at the crack of dawn to write my passion. Every Saturday morning before writing I sat before Him in Adoration giving the time to Him and asking that it be used however He wanted. I told Him over and over that if He wanted this done He was going to have to be the one to do it and make it abundantly clear to me that it was His will. And then I would spend the next hours writing and researching and writing some more. It was crazy. It’s been probably the hardest thing intellectually that I have ever done but at the same time He so clearly blessed that time. There’s no way I could have done it otherwise.

Sooo, what's it about? In short, it's a Catholic book on - what else? - birth. It will explain why birth matters so much to us as women and even as Catholics and how our own personal births can be infused with our Faith, from the way we prepare, to the choices we make, to the way we live out our own feminine genius in our unique birth experience. It's a book on birth that talks about women as whole persons - body, mind, heart, and soul. It’s meant to help women see how God wants to work in their birth no matter what kind of birth He calls them to have. It’s not a “Catholics must birth this way” book. While I think it will be especially helpful for first time mothers, my hope is that it will help every mother, whether this is her first or twelfth baby, respond to the invitation that God wants to work in and through her birth in her own unique circumstances. Included are stories and experiences throughout from dozens of real life women (many of whom you might recognize!) sharing from their personal experience of birth.

Several months ago after a proposal process and approval, I signed my name on a contract and got a legit fancy book deal. Our Sunday Visitor, the largest English Catholic publishing company in the world, loved what I had submitted and they want to publish it. What?!? I am now working with them to finish the book that’s been stirring in my head and heart for almost a decade. It’s slated to be released in early spring of 2018 which feels really far away right now but I'm told it's pretty standard timing. 

The great thing is that it’s already mostly done. While some people are totally confident getting a contract and sharing that they are working on a huge project right from the beginning, that is not at all me! I work way better without the pressure of people knowing about it and I needed the freedom to be able to see if I could even do it before sharing with people. In fact, almost no one but my husband knew I was working on it for nearly a year. A few weeks ago I submitted my whole complete manuscript to my editor and very soon we will begin the editing process. I anticipate that it’s going to be fairly tedious and very challenging but if God’s shown me anything through all of this it’s to trust that if it’s His will, He will be there every step of the way and give me the grace to do the work. 

I would absolutely love love love your prayers and support on this project. It’s in so many ways overwhelming, intimidating, and there are moments I lie awake at night wondering if I’m absolutely insane to be doing this. It still all feels surreal and it's kind of terrifying putting myself out there like this. I mean, it's one thing to tap away on my little blog but it's a whole other world to publish a legit book, especially one on a topic like this! But I know if it’s His will, and He’s been so good to me showing me that it is, that it will happen despite my fears and shortcomings. It's a huge invitation for me to step out of the boat and onto the water. Please pray that it is everything He wants it to be. That's truly all I want. Thank you so much to those of you who have been reading with me here for so many years. I’m so grateful and excited to share this news with you and hope that I can count on your support and prayers in this crazy new journey...I'm going to need them!

(You know you've picked a great publisher when this is the first thing at the top of the new author packet. I have been so incredibly impressed with every interaction and communication with them.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

My Children Aren't the Enemy to My Marriage (even when it feels like it)

After I read those words a few months ago I was simultaneously relieved and convicted. It can be a challenge indeed (and thank you to the great saint for recognizing that!) to remember that our children are the fruit and sign of our love not, as the culture, pop psychology, and sometimes even ourselves believe, a threat to it.

We know this, of course, during the beautiful moments, those moments when life is happy and seems to make sense. It’s a littler harder to believe when the sick toddler cancels the date night…when the cry of the baby again interrupts the intimate moment…when the daily grind of family life makes us extra prone to snapping at our spouse…when our cup feels empty and we’re desperately thirsty for a refill. It’s those times when it becomes more challenging and all the more necessary to believe with our thoughts and our actions that at the root of family life, it is not us against them. Our children are not the enemy...

Monday, May 29, 2017

Our Ben Turns Two?!?

Somehow or other, that baby that I was sure had been born just a few months ago actually turned TWO this week. The last few weeks were so crazy that we weren't able to really celebrate until yesterday. Thankfully, he's 2 (I hear) and doesn't really know what a birthday is or why everyone is suddenly staring at him and singing so the proper date doesn't really matter to him even when I'm feeling bad about it! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

David's First Communion and the Story of a Little Providential Book

This past Sunday our David had the incomparable gift of making his First Holy Communion! I have pictures to remember the day but first I need to share a story, if only so that this fickle heart of mine doesn't forget how He moves.

It was just a few weeks before he was set to make his First Holy Communion and I wasn't quite sure his heart was ready. We had been doing some of the things we try to do to help our kids prepare for such a special day. Adoration time, Confession, teaching, and more. But it just didn't seem like enough and I wondered whether we were failing, whether there was more he needed. On one of those mornings around that time I needed to make a quick stop to pick something up at the Carmelite monastery nearby. I bravely ventured out with all the boys, mostly because I needed to get it done and had no choice. But also because while it definitely makes the experience at one of my favorite places a bit less meditative, I really want them to visit there once in a while and soak in the palpable grace of that place (if only for a few minutes before the toddler has had enough of this ridiculous silence business). So I brought them. We hustled inside on yet another windy, frigid, and disappointingly chilly morning like so many before it, the ones that had been progressively dulling my energy and motivation for months. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Feminine Genius of the Mother's Day Backlash

In the last few years, something strange has begun to happen on and before the second Sunday of May. In blog posts and status updates, conversations and commercials, we're suddenly seeing a whole lot of light shed on the hidden and hard side of Mother's Day. There has been a steadily growing and unprecedented response of compassion to those for whom Mother's Day is nothing but a sharp reminder of loss. 

And it is absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Junior Geologist's Birthday

We have new eight year old around here as of yesterday! 
He has a huge interest in dinosaurs (that was last year's birthday) and now he's added a penchant for geology into his hobbies. There is something about unearthing treasures that speaks to this boy! He loves fossils and stones and gems and almost every day he can get outside finds him running back in at some point with mud splattered pants and a treasure to show me...a new flower blooming, a cool rock from the field, a robin's egg shell. I love his enthusiasm and joy over nature! Eight is a fun age (even when this choleric makes it just a bit more than challenging sometimes!).

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

When I'm hurting, draw me closer.

It all started with the oatmeal.

It was supposed to be cereal - after all, it was Sunday - but lack of grocery prep and no milk in the house left us with the only breakfast option being the disappointment of the standard weekday fare.

The result was dealing with fits of epic proportions as we tried to get the whole family ready and out to Sunday Mass. It was brutal and unprecedented, at least on this level. We were frustrated, uncertain, angry, stressed, and at a loss for what to do. We did manage to get there and as the tear stained little boy sardined next to me in the crowded pew (the other one still recovering in the back with dad), I was thankful for the chance to breathe and pray before we decided what, if anything, needed to happen as a result of the morning behavior and struggle. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Time Apart to Easter

Well, Easter is over. Time to shovel down the rest of the chocolate, pick all that blasted Easter grass from out of the rug, and get back to normal life agai... Just kidding! The official celebration of Easter lasts a full EIGHT days, guys! We have eight days of solemnities, the highest feast days of the Church, to revel in this mystery of the Resurrection and rejoice! (And the entire season lasts FIFTY!) Don't forget that! Let the wisdom of the Church lead your homes. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sweet Jesus, I Forgot.

Last night on Good Friday we rewatched The Passion of the Christ. I have seen it before, several times when it first came out and then I'd revisit it on Good Fridays of years past. The last few years, though, I would think about it and then talk myself right out of it. 

It's too much this year. 
My heart can't handle it. 
I've got a lot going on already.
Jesus doesn't *need* me to watch it.
I'll do something else quasi-penitential instead.

Some of which isn't necessarily wrong, of course, but they were all excuses. Ways for me to escape the visual and palpable reality of the cross. But last night we watched it. And I realized I really had forgotten. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

A (fancy) Night at the Museum

On Friday the husband and I had the chance to do a whirlwind overnight trip. He worked so hard this year, earning an award with his company and the all-expenses-paid awards fancy-people gala that goes with it. All expenses paid - like airfare for both of us to NYC, a luxury hotel in Manhattan, transportation everywhere, open bar, dinner, and dancing...there and back all in about 24 hours. What?! Who are we? He got this once before but at the time we had a little one who was too big to take with us but too little to leave home without us. It was really important for him to be there and while Ben is still nursing, he's so good natured and old enough that we were pretty sure he would do just fine for one night without us. So we took off!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Pro-Life *is* Pro-Birth.

The first time I heard it, I actually wanted to cheer. Then I realized they actually meant it as an insult. The accusation and term is now flung in comboxes and rallies, "debates" and memes. The pro-life movement is only "pro-birth," don't you know? Not really caring about mothers or babies as long as the baby makes it out of the womb alive. There's much I could say about that as a 99% specious and ignorant charge as the accusers mean it, but instead I'd like to point out why the pro-life movement and a culture of life could and should be all about being truly pro-birth. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

lately. :: spring days, snow days, saint days

I didn't realize it was so long that I photo dumped here but my phone album begs to tell me otherwise. Remember the days when I could chronicle every family outing or little house or kid project? Good times. If I actually was cool and didn't hate phone-typing I may have been one of the many to migrate over to Instagram for this kind of stuff but for many reasons it just doesn't work for me. I like having my pics chronicled here in my own space.

On to life here lately. We had a few days of a spring tease...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Turning Ten

Last week our Michael completed a decade and turned the big 1-0. I remember it being kind of a big deal when you got into double digits. I feel it even more so as a parent, I think! Ten feels so big. I'm amazed at how differently temperamented all our boys are. Michael is in many ways our melancholic. He internalizes, feels things deeply, and is slower to react. It can be confused with being unaffected or not noticing but he sees it all. It's kind of ironic that out of all of my kids, he was the one who barreled through birth the quickest! He's great at math, loves crafts and colors, and is such an innocent and classic kid. It brings me so much joy that the little things are enough for him. He's simple and innocent and sweet and I can't wait to see how God wants to work in his life.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Terror of Demons, Pray for Us.

It seems like the devil has been so busy lately - in the world, in the lives of those I know, and in my own life. It makes sense, I suppose, it being Lent and all. If Lent is the time when we enter into the desert with Jesus, then of course the one who wasn't afraid to go after Him would set his eyes next on the ones He loves. And if he couldn't win with him, how the anger of that loss must drive his rage to want to devour us instead. The devil doesn't need a new m.o. Why would he when we forget so easily every. single. time. that he's there watching and waiting for the right time to sink his fangs in? We always forget and that's why it's so important that we Christians remember that he's real and he hates us. We need to talk about it or we'll be lulled yet again back to sleep. He will do everything in his power (which more often than not simply entails keeping us drowsy) to keep us from experiencing the Resurrection. He particularly hates marriage and family life and it is often there where we most see his wreckage.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

('s still okay to give up chocolate, too.)

There's a strangely interesting backlash on the Catholic internet against giving up chocolate for Lent and I have to admit, I find it...weird. I'm not even referring to one person or post. I've seen at least a couple dozen Facebook posts, ad campaigns, memes, comments and more urging people to do anything BUT give up chocolate. And I'm kinda like...huh? What did chocolate do to anyone (besides be delicious)? Or maybe there's a scandal and the Catholic internet is being paid off by big cocoa. On one hand people are saying that the little sacrifices matter, that God cares for the little daily offerings we can give Him, but apparently that just DOES NOT apply to the stress chocolate I've shoved into my mouth for the third time today. I'm a third laughing, a third kinda puzzled, and a third wondering how many people are maybe harboring and rationalizing some serious addictions to the bean. But I guess more than anything I'm just kind of surprised by the amount of people who seem to think that sacrificing something (even if they deem it small or boring) doesn't have merit for its own sake.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

ACOG's 11 "New" Recommendations for Birth (that we've kinda been saying all along)

Finally! Have you heard? If you or someone you know will be having a baby soon, I hope you have! The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists just recently (finally!) came out with some new recommendations for labor and birth and they're kind of a big deal. It's what many mothers and birth advocates have been begging for for years and ACOG is finally admitting that for most women, some common hospital protocols have not truly been evidence based. In fact, many times the unreasonable requirements of these protocols have frustrated normal labors and caused complications that could have been prevented. 

This is important. This isn't just for "birthy" folk. We need to care about these kinds of things because they directly affect the health of the most vulnerable among us and they affect the dignity with which women and babies are treated. The way women experience their births has a direct effect on families and on how they enter into their motherhood. We need to insist that women and babies are always treated with the utmost of dignity and respect and with solid, evidence-based care that honors the design of God for our bodies and for birth.

Monday, February 20, 2017

lately :: winter days, babies, tree tapping, and more ::

Winter hasn't been too hard on us this year. We have only gotten snow a handful of times and never more than a few inches at a time. January was extremely gray and rainy, though. I think, quite literally, that we only saw the blue sky for a few moments on one day out of the whole month. So with that preceding, February is starting to get long and feel very much like February does. BUT this week is slated to creep into the 50's and there's been a few days of sunshine already so yay! Thanks, God.  

Monday, February 6, 2017

The 3 Books Every Catholic Parent Should Read

There are a lot lot lot of books on parenting and marriage out there. It's actually kind of overwhelming, isn't it? I've read and like some of them but I recently spent some time rereading a few things that I read long ago when I was just a young single whippersnapper piling up loans and filling my stomach with ramen noodles. While I really loved them then and they helped put me on the path towards my vocation, when I reread them now as a wife and mom....woah. Everything is stunningly true and applicable to me right here, right now.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What Saint John Bosco Teaches Me About Parenting

While in college, I met Saint John Bosco. Back then he was assigned as reading and study for those of us in the theology/religious education track at school. I enjoyed learning about him and what his methods could teach us about evangelization and catechesis and ministry. But it wasn't until I entered my vocation as a wife and mother, now with five little boys of my own counting on me for their education and evangelization, that his words and method became so much more profound. I'm no great expert on his life and I certainly have a long way to go in applying his methods well but they teach me SO much about the type of mother I want to be and what to do to get there. His words are so practical and they are filled with love. When I read them I can't help but be convicted and inspired. Here's a few of my favorite quotes along with what I glean from them for my own mothering and teaching of these little people God's given me:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Where Is the Church in Pregnancy, Miscarriage, and Birth?

I’ve had the feeling myself and I’ve heard it expressed among a lot of friends. “Where is the Church during …?” At the most difficult or the most profound moments of our lives, we want…something. Something official that shows that these huge and life-altering moments are recognized by the body of Christ. We want support, guidance, love, concern, and help and it makes sense that we expect the Church to provide that. Considering my own current state in life as a young(ish?) mom and a birth and bereavement doula, it makes sense that I most hear it in regard to the seasons of pregnancy or in regard to birth or miscarriage. Why doesn’t the Church do more for pregnant women? Does the Church care about me as I get ready to have this baby? Why aren’t there official resources to help women after a miscarriage? If the Church is so pro-life and claims she values every single human person, then how does she show it for these very real babies?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Celebrating Saint John Bosco

I have a particular love for Saint John Bosco. I love his philosophies of rearing children and education. I love his practical, no-nonsense advice for life. I love his heart for teaching and training boys that the world thought were hopeless. God called this Italian priest in the 1800's to found a school for these boys and train them in a life of virtue. For that reason, he was claimed some years ago as patron of our little homeschool here and I feel like he has a special watch over our family. I think it's particularly neat that his birthday is the same day as our wedding anniversary.

His feast day is on January 31 and we'll be taking some time to honor our patron! 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I Doula as a Homeschooling SAHM of 5

About five years ago, I became certified as a birth doula. It's a challenging, rewarding, difficult, and amazing gift to be able to do it. I wasn't sure when I first started the training where it would lead but I felt like God was leading me there so I stepped out and started. I've learned and changed so much since starting. Since then, I've been asked lots of times how I make the whole birth doula work when I'm a homeschooling mom of five little people, some just curious and some wondering if they could do it themselves. There is a huge need for all types of legit doulas (birth, postpartum, and bereavement), especially women of faith. I truly believe that building a culture of life includes real tangible support for mothers during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and through loss. I'd encourage any woman who's feeling a little nudge to pray and see if it would work for her and her family, even on a limited basis. If it truly is God's will, He'll work out the details.

First, I guess I should share a quick basic summary of the nuts and bolts I provide for official clients:
1 free interview, 2 prenatal meetings, 24/7 on call availability from 37 weeks on, email/phone support anytime during pregnancy, physical/emotional/informational/spiritual support from active labor until 1-2 hours after birth, 1 postpartum follow up meeting

So, how do I do that as a homeschooling, stay at home mom to 5 littles?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Our Ben Right Now

Our Ben is still bringing so much joy. Yesterday he turned 20 months and his spirit is just indescribable. I know I've said it before but the way he's changed our home is so beautiful and he has added so much that I didn't even know was missing. I was so scared when I was pregnant with him and that must've made God laugh a bit, with that all-knowing way of His of what was in store for us. I'm inclined to think that he is a gift just for our little family to really understand since I suspect to everyone else he just seems like a normal quirky one year old. But he has made our lives happier, more compassionate, more peaceful, and more loving. He genuinely makes me want to be a better person which sounds really dramatic but is completely true. There's just something about him. I was totally bracing myself as he entered the toddler stage (which is not where my motherhood and temperament are, ahem, naturally suited) but so far, even that's been pretty great. Brian and I are still in awe multiple times a day with just how amazing he is and his big brothers are all still pretty smitten, too. (WOW. That was a mom gush. But my blog so that's that.)

So, capturing some of Ben right now:

Good natured and happy nearly all the time. It's incredible. He has his moments, of course, but even those are so tame. 

He loves to dance and definitely prefers faster music. We joked that because he came out feet first when he was born that he would be dancer and I think he's trying to live up to it. His signature latest move is tiptoeing in a circular walk-run with arms in either a slow flap or gospel praise position. It's the best. Whenever I put music on he gets visibly excited and waits to hear what it is and in between songs worries that it's over.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Uncovering My Eyes to See

I've been thinking a LOT lately about accepting grace and allowing God to actually do what we ask of Him, and then? Then being free to acknowledge that He has. I'm not sure if this will make sense or not but this past year I've felt a change and saw some little tendencies where I have a hard time letting go of my ideas of who I am and what my struggles are. I see the same reflected in other women during conversations as well. I don't know whether it's just that there is a comfort in the familiarity (even the negative stuff) or if there is something that scares us about being better. Maybe it feels like pride to admit when we no longer struggle with something. Maybe it's that we have made this sin or wound or fault or weakness so much a part of our identity that we don't know how to let it go. I don't know, perhaps there is something different behind it. But I've been coming around in the last year to the idea that God is not honored by that. (And someone else, of course, would love for us to stay clinging to our dark and less than ideal parts.) Clutching the old - whether it is sin, sickness, wounds, ugly or destructive attitudes, or even just ideas about ourselves - that God has touched and brought healing and hope to (even if not completely) is...well, it's kinda rude.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

lately :: Christmas remnants ::

Catching up on just a few little memories over Christmas and up through Epiphany...

A trip to the five and dime - where nothing is either five or a dime.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Beginning of Christmas 2016

Merry Christmas and happy new year! 

Finally jumping on to record some of the beginning of our Christmas. It's been good...more relaxed than I expected. I overestimated how much we had planned to do so there's been much more downtime than I thought there would be. Which is...nice? But I totally admit that it leaves me feeling antsy. I do like playing games and puzzles and easy meals but I'm not as good with not knowing in the morning what the goals are for the day. Even if the goal is just to relax and have a cozy day with leftovers for dinner, it needs to be a part of The Plan or all day long I have that nagging feeling like I'm forgetting something. Anyone else? But on the very bright side, I think God's been giving me this unexpected extra time to work on a few big projects and I'm trying to use the time well. I also took a break from doulaing for a couple months and it's been a welcome break from being on call 24/7, especially over Christmas! 

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